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Jobs in Rhode Island: How is the ARRA Stacking Up?

Posted on July 13, 2009

The goal of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was to create jobs throughout the country. So how has it fared as far as creating jobs in Rhode Island?

Not good, according to an article by The Providence Journal. It seems as though most of the $155 million Rhode Island received has been used to close the state’s budget deficit, not for creating jobs.

Since President Barack Obama signed the stimulus bill in February, the unemployment rate in Rhode Island has continued to increase. During June, the state saw its unemployment rate increase from 11.1 percent to 12.1 percent. It was at 10.5 percent when the stimulus was passed. During that time, more than 9,000 people have lost their jobs, making total jobless numbers reach about 68,456.

Many in Rhode Island think the state Department of Transportation‘s shovel-ready projects will be the biggest producer of jobs. The state could get $138 million from the federal government for transportation projects. But so far, only $1.6 million has been spent. Delays are being caused by bidding rules and reviews by the Department of Environmental Management.

There are some bright spots, however. The DOT has hired 69 employees for 54 stimulus-funded projects, and another 20 will soon be hired. Of those projects, 45 have been advertised, 22 contracts have been awarded and at least eight have already begun, resulting in the creation of 75 private-sector jobs. At the height of the projects, about 1,500 workers are expected to be employed.

The state Department of Labor and Training is hiring 30 employees, including 19 to work in its career centers. On top of that, 1,785 teenagers will have paid jobs this summer thanks to the stimulus bill. The state Department of Human Services is hiring 19 extra employees to meet the increasing demand for services.

Overall, less than one-fourth of the $787 billion included in the ARRA has been distributed so far. A lot of the money that has been released has gone to cover the everyday costs of running state governments.

In Rhode Island, state officials have said they’re relying on $227 million in federal funding to help avoid laying off public employees, preventing a large tax increase and improving social services.

But overall, many people are afraid the stimulus is not doing its part as far as creating jobs. During June, the national unemployment rate increased to 9.5 percent, the highest its been in 26 years. The country lost 467,000 jobs during the month, an increase from the 345,000 jobs lost during May.

Mystic River Press
Sun Chronicle
Johnston Sunrise
Cranston Herald
Sakonnet Times
Portsmouth Times
The Express